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Christianity Versus Humanism

By R. J. Rushdoony
September 01, 2001

(Reprinted from The Philosophy of Christian Curriculum [Ross House Books, 1981], 171-174)

The great issue of the years ahead is the developing battle between Christianity and humanism. It is a war unto death. Christianity is a world and life view and faith, and it can only exist as such. It is either the Word of God for every area or none.

Christianity was born into the same battle. It is only the dereliction of Christendom which has led to a return to the beginnings of this old battle of the centuries. On the day of Pentecost, St. Peter's great proclamation was this: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Ac. 2:36). "Jesus is Lord!" This is the joyful and central proclamation of the early church. It is the declaration of St. Paul (Phil. 2:9-11; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3), and it is the joyful declaration that in Christ the prophecy of Isaiah 45:23 is fulfilled. To declare Jesus is Lord means that He is the world ruler Who absolutely governs every sphere of life and thought. It is the obligation of every area to be Christian: church, state, school, family, vocations, the arts and sciences, and all things else must serve only Christ the Lord.

The True Meaning of "Church"
A problem in understanding the scope of our work is the common misuse of the word church. Our English word comes from kyriakos, a Greed adjective, as in kyriakon doma, or kyriake oika; our word "church" refers to an institution of worship, the ministry of the Word, or a building. The New Testament word translated church is ecclesia, which gives the sense of two Hebrew words, 'edhah (congregation) and qahl (assembly). It can refer to all the redeemed people, to their assembly in worship, their civil government, the family, the godly army, and more: it means the kingdom of God. Thus, where Scripture speaks of the church, it means Christ's realm in every area and sphere of life. All things must be brought under the dominion of Christ the Lord.

At present, humanism has brought all things, including most churches, under the sway of man the lord. The purpose of state schools, as laid down by Horace Mann, James G. Carter, and others, was twofold: first, to establish centralism, the priority of the state over every area of life, and second, to eliminate Biblical faith. The founders of statist education in the United States were Unitarians. They rightly believed that control over the child through the schools is the key to controlling society. Control over the schools will determine control over state and church finally.

Christianity and humanism are diametrically opposed religions; one is the worship of the sovereign and Triune God, the other is the worship of man. Let us briefly analyze some of the key points of difference between Christianity and humanism as they affect education. This is far from an exhaustive analysis. Our purpose is to provide a brief outline of some of the fundamental differences:

Christianity

1. The sovereignty of the Triune God is the starting point, and this God speaks through His infallible Word.

2. We must accept God as God. He is alone Lord.

3. God's Word and Person is the Truth.

4. Education is into God's truth in every realm.

5. Education is discipline under a body of truth. This body of truth grows with research and study, but truth is objective and God-given. We begin by presupposing God and His Word.

6. Godly standards grade us. We must measure up to them. The teacher grades the pupil.

7. Man's will and the child's will must be broken to God's purpose. Man must be remade, reborn by God's grace.

8. Man's problem is sin. Man must be recreated by God.

9. The family is God's basic institution.

 

Humanism

1. The sovereignty of man and the state is the starting point, and it is the word of scientific, elite man which we must heed.

2. Man is his own god, choosing or determining for himself what constitutes good and evil (Gen. 3:5).

3. Truth is pragmatic and existential: it is what we find works and is helpful to us.

4. Education is the self-realization and self-development of the child.

5. Education is freedom from restraint and from any idea of truth outside of us. We are the standard, not something outside of man.

6. The school and the world must measure up to the pupil's needs. The pupil grades the teacher.

7. Society must be broken and remade to man's will and the child's will is sacred.

8. Man's problem is society. Society must be recreated by man.

9. The family is obsolete. The individual or the state is basic.

Truly Christian Education
The Christian school must, thus, teach every subject from a God-centered perspective, or else it will be teaching humanism. Mathematics, for example, has no validity in a universe of change: it rests on the presupposition of a sovereign and predestinating God.1

The humanistic history book not only eliminates Biblical history and the great and central role of our Christian faith, but it sees history as chance rather than purpose. History for the humanist is at its best simply man's determination, whereas for the Christian it is God's determination.

In the sciences, we must again deny the "rule" of chance. Materialistic determinism is no better. The Newtonian view of causality has collapsed because its single and purely naturalistic view is inadequate. There is no single cause in nature. Moreover, the multiplicity of causes does not suffice to account for the fact of order, design, and meaning. Only the presupposition of the God of Scripture can properly undergird science.

In literature, we must ask, what is a classic? The idea of what constitutes a classic has varied from culture to culture. Thus the great Vietnamese classic, The Tale of Kieu, is a masterpiece of humanism. It encourages self-pity, the indictment of God, and a belief that man, who has the root of goodness in him, is the victim of God.2 A Christian classic must reflect a Christian world and life view; it must see conflict as moral, not metaphysical, and it must affirm an ultimate and basic harmony, not a conflict, of interests.

In teaching language, we must remember that grammar and culture are interrelated. There is a theological premise to grammar. Relativistic cultures cannot develop a truly future tense, nor a proper sense of the future. Words, moreover, represent meanings; they are miniature propositional truths. Communication is possible where a common culture prevails. The more existential that culture becomes, the more difficult communication becomes, because words and meanings are weakened or destroyed.

Christian faith is thus a total concern. Christian schools are a necessity, or else we will have anti-Christian schools. For Christianity to by-pass education, to neglect Christian schools, is suicidal. Those who do so have denied Christ and His Lordship.

Notes

1. See Vern S. Poythress, "Creation and Mathematics; or What Does God Have To Do With Numbers?" in the Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. 1, no. 1, summer, 1974, 128-130; and Vern S. Poythress, "Mathematics," in Gary North, Ed., Foundations of Christian Scholarship (Vallecito, CA, 1976), 159-188.

2. Nguyen Du, Huynh Sanh Thong, translator, The Tale of Kieu by Nguyen Du (New York, 1973).


Topics: Philosophy, Dominion, Church, The

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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